Don't be too hard on the poor guy. I honestly don't think he remembers much about his dealings with Hunter. On the other hand, after a good mid day nap he usually is able to remember the name of his son.
Hunter Comes Home to Roost
Joe Biden managed to escape scrutiny for his son’s business in 2020. Not this time.
By Kimberley A. Strassel, WSJ
Dec. 28, 2023
One hazard of political campaigns is the unseen junction—a key moment that nobody recognizes at the time. Such a moment came for Democrats on April 19, via a letter to Congress about the federal probe into Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
Team Biden might be forgiven for ignoring the missive. Hunter’s legal team was quietly negotiating with U.S. Attorney David Weiss, working to close his probe with no charges. The sordid laptop aside, the Biden circle had good reason to believe the drama would soon be over, that Americans would (again) be denied further details of the Biden family business.
Instead, the letter introduced the country to the first of two Internal Revenue Service agents who’d been tossed from the Hunter investigation after flagging irregularities. Their whistleblower testimony blew open the ugly details of Hunter’s foreign business escapades. Follow-up interviews suggested Joe’s tacit assistance. The Justice Department came under fire. Hunter’s plea deal fell apart. Mr. Weiss obtained indictments against him. Yet to come: Hunter’s trial proceedings, a possible Hunter contempt of Congress citation, and a possible Joe Biden impeachment.
That April day was in retrospect the moment for the Biden team—and Democrats more broadly—to reconsider the wisdom of a re-election campaign. The president was already beginning to sag under polls that show sweeping dissatisfaction with his job performance and age. Hunter has since become another big drag on the president’s hope for a second term.
So far, the Biden campaign—and the media—remains in full denial, insisting the story is a political nonstarter so long as House Republicans fail to prove Joe “profited” from Hunter’s largess. That misses the Burisma board for the political trees. The Hunter damage comes from the stench of family influence peddling, the intersection of it with Mr. Biden’s office, and the potential for the hits to keep coming.
Mr. Biden cast himself in 2020 as the restorative “light” to Donald Trump’s “darkness.” Hunter muddies such distinctions. Americans don’t generally like IRS probes, but they make exceptions for wealthy tax cheats, and Hunter makes an unsympathetic defendant. He is accused of evading $1.4 million in taxes on $7 million of income. The tax-avoidance figure alone is a sum most Americans can only dream of. (Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said he had paid all his taxes and accused Mr. Weiss of having “bowed to Republican pressure” in seeking the indictment.)
The president’s problem is that whether he profited or not, the evidence suggests that he facilitated this behavior, enabling the influence peddling, whether by getting on speakerphone when his son was with clients, or dropping by his son’s business meals. This behavior also weakens the campaign’s hope that voters will sympathize with a family struggling over drug addiction. Many Americans genuinely identify with that awful problem, though few likely think the solution is a ride on Air Force 2 to sell the Biden brand.
Joe Biden beat Mr. Trump in 2020 in no small part on the claim his opponent lacked the moral fitness for a second term—and he is banking on a repeat. But the Hunter drama is a direct hit to Joe’s own supposed fitness, as it presents a story line of an extended Biden family grifting for years on Joe Biden’s public standing—with his implied agreement. It puts both sides in the mud.
The Justice Department’s initial kid-glove handling of Hunter phenomenally backfired, landing the mess square in the presidential campaign cycle. Hunter’s legal team will no doubt angle to push any trials past 2024. But it’s unclear Mr. Weiss is done seeking indictments, and in any event his botched probe has already provided House Republicans enough leads to keep headlines humming through November. And that’s not taking into account the growing possibility of impeachment hearings—which would dominate the news cycle for weeks.
Hunter’s new “aggressive” legal strategy by necessity will make him a headline. See his stunt of a few weeks back, flouting a congressional subpoena in favor of a press conference outside the Capitol. That may yet earn him a contempt citation. Would the Justice Department bring charges? Maybe not, though that in itself would add to the scandal—Biden officials refusing to hold to account a presidential son who scorned a lawful subpoena. The president’s former press secretary Jen Psaki recently acknowledged that the White House team was surely wishing that Hunter would “please stop talking in public.” Though it also might help if dad stopped inviting him to state dinners.
All this explains polls showing the Hunter millstone. An October poll by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 68% believed Joe Biden acted illegally or unethically with regard to his son’s business dealings. That includes 74% of independents. It’s difficult to think of a Biden excuse that would suddenly make these numbers better.
Joe Biden was spared the Hunter narrative in 2020 thanks to a cabal of obliging press, social media and former intelligence officials that deep-sixed the laptop story in the runup to the election. It’s acting as if it can similarly disappear the new Hunter drama. It’s too late for that, and Democrats might consider what that means for 2024.
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